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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 April 2007, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Poll gives SNP 12% election lead
Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond
The poll found Mr Salmond was preferred as the next first minister
A newspaper poll has given the Scottish National Party its biggest lead of the Holyrood election campaign.

It put the SNP 12% ahead of Labour in the constituency vote - 6% higher than previous polls - with an 11% lead in the ballot for regional MSPs.

The poll also suggested that voters would prefer Alex Salmond to Jack McConnell as first minister.

The Scottish Opinion poll of more than 1,000 people was carried out for the Scottish Mail on Sunday.

The results would translate into the SNP doubling its number of Holyrood seats to 56, giving the party 16 more MSPs than Labour.

When asked who would make the best first minister, 17% of people went for Mr McConnell while 23% opted for Mr Salmond.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie (7%) beat Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen (5%) into third place, with 3% of those asked thinking Solidarity leader Tommy Sheridan was the best person for the top job.

SNP winning

The survey predicted that the SNP would win 56 seats, Labour 40, the Tories 17, the Lib Dems 13 and other parties three.

That was based on the SNP achieving 40% of the Holyrood constituency vote, Labour 28%, the Tories 15%, the Lib Dems 14% and other parties and candidates sharing 3%.

In the vote for regional MSPs the Nationalists were on 39%, Labour 28%, the Tories 14%, the Lib Dems 10%, the Greens 4%, Solidarity and the SSP are both on 1%.

However, the figures did not include voters who had yet to decide.

According to the poll, 29% of people have yet to choose who to back, while 6% will refuse to vote.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, told the Mail on Sunday: "Labour appears to be so far behind that the SNP is a distant speck on the horizon.

"We have had months of campaigning and the SNP has remained ahead.

"Labour's tactic has been attacking the SNP and independence and emphasising the partnership with London.

"The odds are against them being able to turn the election around with that strategy."

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